For many of us, tax season is something we’d rather avoid. And it’s no surprise why, since each taxpayer spends about 12.5 hours preparing for and filing taxes, (1) not to mention the added tax-preparation costs. But since the 2020 tax filing season has officially begun and you have to face it eventually, the sooner you get everything in order, the sooner you can shake off that looming stress and focus on things you love instead. Here is how to prepare for this tax season.
Gather & Organize Your Important Documents
You’ve probably been receiving various tax documents in the mail for the past month, so now is the time to organize that pile sitting on your counter. You may have documents such as:
- Form W-2: These are issued by employers and show your wages and tax withholdings. They are supposed to be mailed by January 31.
- Form 1099-MISC: These report income you have received as an independent contractor or freelancer. You should receive one from each person or company that pays you.
- Form 1099-INT: This form will show any interest you have earned.
- Form 1099-R: This form reports income received from annuities, IRAs, or pensions.
- Form 1099-DIV: Any dividend income you earn is reported on this form.
- Form 1099-B or 1099-S: You will receive these if you have any income from the sale of property or stock.
- Form 1098: You will get this from your mortgage company reporting the interest that you paid.
- Form 1098-T: This reports payments of qualified tuition and expenses.
- Form 1095-A or 1095-C: These forms report your healthcare coverage for the year and your premium tax credit, if applicable.
If you want your tax filing experience to go smoothly, you’ll also want to make sure that you have all of your and your dependents’ personal information available, such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth. Also, if you itemize your deductions, start gathering your receipts for healthcare expenses, charitable contributions, and records of your taxes and interest paid.
Review Last Year’s Return
Looking over your 2018 tax return is a good way to get a sense of what you will need to file your 2019 tax return. Make sure you have statements for all the accounts and investments you included on last year’s return. This will also remind you of any special deductions or credits that you may be eligible for. If you’re working with a new tax professional this year, providing them with a copy of your 2018 return will make your 2019 return quicker and easier for them.
Make Necessary Changes
While it’s helpful to look over last year’s return, you also need to take into consideration any changes that have occurred over the past year. Did you add another child to your family? Did one of your children start college? Did you start taking withdrawals from a retirement account? All of these changes need to be reflected on your tax return but won’t show up on prior returns.
More than personal changes, there may be changes to federal or state tax law that you should be aware of. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act tax reform bill of 2017 is still being implemented and the new SECURE Act could also affect your 2019 tax situation. A knowledgeable financial professional can help you understand any tax law changes and how they affect you.
Make A Plan
While it’s important to get your 2019 tax return filed properly, it’s just as important to look at the bigger picture of taxes in general. Are you optimizing all of the tools available to you to limit your tax liability? Are there steps that you could take now to minimize future taxes? Do you have a plan for your tax refund that will further your overall financial goals?
Taxes are complicated, to put it lightly, so it helps to work with a professional who understands them if you want to maximize the opportunities available. An experienced financial advisor can help you with tax planning in light of your overall goals and financial plan.
If you want to be proactive about tax planning and don’t have a trusted advisor yet, our team at Setchfield Asset Management would love to meet you to help you experience confidence in every aspect of your financial plan. Schedule an introductory meeting to see if we are the right fit by emailing me at email@example.com or calling (303) 627-1099.
Steve Setchfield is Chief Investment Strategist at Setchfield Asset Management, an independent financial advisory firm. With almost 30 years of experience, Steve serves his clients by keeping them out of financial trouble in volatile markets, using a low-key, rules-based approach to investing and helping them with every aspect of their financial lives. Steve studied finance at the Metropolitan State University of Denver and spent several years working at Shearson Lehman Brothers and Kemper Securities before founding his own independent firm so he could offer objective, personalized advice and strategies. Steve is a Colorado native and enjoys skiing and other outdoor activities. He spends his free time volunteering for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Colorado and coaching wrestling in the Cherry Creek school system. In 2003, Steve was a living kidney donor for his uncle who suffered from polycystic kidney disease. To learn more about Steve, connect with him on LinkedIn.